While a number of you on Daily Kos are going ga-ga over President Barack Obama's outstanding debate performance against Mitt Romney just earlier, I am diligently covering probably one the most uncovered campaigns in recent memory: The race in California's 49th Congressional District between Rep. Darrell Issa and Democratic candidate Jerry Tetalman. If we win this race in November, we have the potential to changing the tone of the Democratic Party in a BIG way although it will take some time. Of course, we also still have to win the House back and give Nancy Pelosi back her gavel.
Before I talk about the interview, I want to point out a few things first:
1) It has been quite a journey for me to becoming a Democrat. Originally I was a Republican, like our own Daily Kos founder, Markos once was and I did originally support people like George H.W. Bush for president back in 1988 (both Markos and I are residents in Berkeley although I've been living here longer than he has). However, I remembered doing a report back in junior high about Harry Truman and I remember liking this President a hell of a lot, particularly with his common sense demeanor. In thinking more about this, over time I became more progressive and less conservative (although I am a fiscal conservative but that's pretty much the only conservatism that makes sense). In a way, my transformation is similar to the infamous, once-worshipped conservative teenager Jonathan Krohn who is now a liberal and doesn't identify at all with the ultra-right conservative ideology.
2) For any of you who are mad as hell about Darrell Issa but strong in supporting Sandra Fluke, you'll be in for a treat which I'll explain later in this diary. Also, if any of you are registered in the Green Party or are disaffected Democrats who don't believe the Democratic Party is becoming progressive enough, you might want to read through this diary as there's a lot more about Jerry Tetalman you'll like than you'll dislike.
I'm about to get into the interview with Jerry Tetalman in a bit. I do want to point out that unfortunately, I cannot write everything up in a Q&A format nor did I have the ability to record the interview as I just simply took notes from the nearly hour-long phone call I had with Jerry. The questions I asked him ranged from softball to hardball questions so clearly I wasn't going to just simply let Tetalman off the hook by asking him questions that were very typical. However, I also wanted to make clear that this interview, I believe, would address issues and questions we really care about with regards to the state of our country, our standing in the world and who we want as Congressmen and representatives in Congress to represent us in making sure America is a great country.
Right now we're all aware of the infamous Rep. Darrell Issa and his actions as House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman. He's the one who of course grilled U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder over the Fast & Furious scandal, demanded an investigation and then the Justice Department's own Inspector General, while being objective and did a thorough investigation, found NOTHING that tied Eric Holder to the scandal. Issa also, most famously, did not allow Sandra Fluke to testify at the contraception hearings earlier this year, claimed the hearing was about religious leaders' perspectives of the issue. One problem: all of these religious leaders were MEN. Funny because Issa didn't realize nuns also have a view of the issue as well and they're women, right? They're not aliens of course. God, just imagine you're at the beaches of Southern California in the 49th Congressional District, you just got out of the water after a nice dip and find on the air that your own Congressman is becoming a lightning rod of criticism for extremely conservative causes. This isn't California spirit, damn it!
So now what do we do? As President Obama so eloquently said himself, "Don't boo, vote!"
And this is where Democrat Jerry Tetalman comes in. The interview I had with him yesterday won't be in a Q&A format but will be summarized and outlined in detail with the questions I asked him. I want to point out that Tetalman himself on the phone was a very calm, supportive person and definitely appreciated my efforts in promoting his message:
• Where did you grow up?
Jerry Tetalman is a native of Ohio who came to California in the 1970's (I believe late 70's). As it turns out, Tetalman told me he grew up in the Cleveland area but ended up living close to where Darrell Issa grew up. Funny how you have a Democrat and Republican, both in the same race in a really cool state, even though their hometowns in another state were not far apart from each other. I'm pretty sure Issa and Tetalman have Midwest values to their core but Tetalman is far more of a better spokesman on that.
• How do you describe the 49th Congressional District of California to anyone who needs to know?
Tetalman points out to me that this California district is particularly notable because it contains the La Jolla region, as well as Camp Pendleton, one of the largest military bases in the U.S and there are a significant number of people in the military, retirees, etc. The region of the 49th district is a very coastal area so again, if you want to surf or live up the chill, California spirit, the 49th district beaches are no exception. Part of Orange County is also in the mix and there's a considerable bio-tech industry as well.
• Is this district Safe Republican or not so much?
One of the misconceptions that everyone seems to think is that the 49th Congressional District is Safe Republican. Actually, the correct answer is that it used to be. According to what Tetalman told me, because of redistricting in California, a lot of the Congressional districts have been re-organized to the point where not every incumbent Congressman is in a safe spot for re-election. You're seeing that with Rep. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, who while being liberal Democrats in a very liberal community in Southern California, are battling each other out, even while being incumbent Congressmen. The 49th District no longer includes a considerable portion of the Riverside county, which is notoriously conservative. The redistricting now contains more progressive/Democratic areas in the 49th region and this is working to Tetalman's advantage. In fact, Tetalman's campaign manager said to me, voter registration right now in the 49th district is 43% Republican, 29% Democrat and 28% Decline to State and other parties. Bottom line is this, as long as Tetalman focuses on the 29% Democrat and 28% Independent and other parties, he should have momentum although I wouldn't be surprised if a number of Republicans defect from Darrell Issa and vote Democratic the first time. There are some GOP voters who are absolutely OUTRAGED at Issa's conduct in the Fast & Furious investigation.
As for anyone who still wants to say the 49th District is Safe Republican, I challenge you to offer polling data and REAL proof this is so. So far, I have not read a single bit of credible statistical data that proves me wrong. Even polling firms and well respected pollsters are behind a bit.
• What are some local issues you've been paying attention to in the 49th District?
Tetalman is quick to say to me that probably the most pressing issue is the San Onofre nuclear power plant, which was shut down in January 2012 due to mechanical failure. Tetalman mentioned to me he's fought against the re-opening of the nuclear plant because 1) it's not safe to reopen and 2) nuclear power, as demonstrated in the blow-ups and shut downs in Japan in the aftermath of the deadly Tsunami back in March 2011, is not a safe form of energy by any means, whether you use it for weapons or even for operations in buildings and infrastructure. Clearly Tetalman is not a fan of nuclear power.
• What about issues in California? What do you think of the bullet train project?
Tetalman is very much for high-speed rail and went even further to point out that the central issue here is the need to address the high levels of growth in population. We cannot effectively continue to structure and govern this state if we don't have control over population growth. Therefore, high-speed rail is important as it's designed to speed up the process of transportation and efficiency. It will also be a MAJOR boon to the economy in California in ways not imagined many decades ago. In fact, high-speed rail is almost inevitable in California. Think about it: Wouldn't it be REALLY cool to travel from Southern California to San Francisco in a matter of two hours? Hell, if you're a filmmaker in the Bay Area wanting to make it big in Hollywood, you can get your films made faster and for families, you'll have a lot easier time visiting Disneyland.
• Why did you become a Democrat?
Tetalman says it's important to be apart of a group of like-minded people with strength and organization. On the other hand, it's important to have a fresh, independent perspective on things and not be tied into the partisan mindset all the time. Tetalman agrees with a majority of the Democratic platform, particularly with progressives. Fair taxation is an issue many Democrats agree on and that's what makes Tetalman comfortable about the Democratic Party. However, it is vital to keep your mind open, particularly with regards to knowledge.
THIS is one of the reasons why people get so fed up with politics all the time. Voters, whether they're political or not, get turned off because politicians are being too partisan or too exclusive with regards to ideas and input from the American public. I always remind Democrats and people on Daily Kos that the Democratic Party needs to be more inclusive and less exclusive. We're the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party where the GOP is pandering to the likes of Grover Norquist and the Tea Party, which in turn is making it to be very un-American in its approach. Yes, I completely understand we don't want Blue Dogs, conservative Democrats and Joseph Lieberman to be main spokespeople for our party and they certainly wouldn't be my first choice for representing Congress. However, it's important to make the case: Why are we in the Democratic Party versus the Republican Party? There's a reason why we're a "Democratic" Party.
A young lady on You Tube, explaining her reaction to Jerry Tetalman's "One World Democracy" book, perfectly echoes my sentiment on politics and the destruction of humanity as well:
If anything, I believe the next breed of Democrats will be the Knowledge Democrats. Of course, a lot of us on Daily Kos, as well as others in the Democratic Party and Congress do back up our views with facts and we do our research and don't always shoot from the hip. However, Tetalman is about knowledge more than he is about ideology (even though he is a progressive).
• Do you think the Democratic Party is more welcoming to people with different perspectives than the Republican Party or are both parties equal in that regard?
Tetalman points out that the Democratic Party has a bigger tent and is more inviting to those of diversity whereas the GOP has limitations in its base. You saw this at the 2012 Democratic National Convention that happened earlier last month. Blacks, Hispanics, Indians, etc. were considerable portions of the delegates (hell, even people apart of Tetalman's campaign were delegates), more so at the DNC now than ever in its entire history. However, Tetalman also points out the fact that the Democratic Party has a considerable portion of poor people, middle class and even wealthy. And the wealthy, my god, the Democratic Party has Warren Buffett, more wealthy than the Koch Brothers or even Sheldon Adelson!
• Would you become a Democrat like Joseph Lieberman, Zell Miller or Artur Davis who out of the blue support the wrong causes or parties? Or would you be a Democrat to the core and not cave in to demands of others who ask you to vote this way in order to guarantee you support?
Tetalman says its important to think independently. In talking with him, I'll be frank in saying he is NOT a blue dog, conservative Democrat or any Democrat at all who will pull a Lieberman, Zell Miller or an Artur Davis. However, Tetalman is wise to point out that no matter what party you're in, voting party line isn't always the way to go. Yes, Tetalman will stand loyally with a number of Democrats on health care, environment, the economy, women's rights, civil rights, union rights, etc. but partisanship is what's dividing Congress and making its approval rating alarmingly low. Even President Obama has tried to be bipartisan and it's backfired against him by the GOP's unwillingness to think outside the box. Tetalman will LISTEN more than he will talk.
• For any conservatives/Republicans who say, “Oh, you’re just a tax and spend liberal who doesn’t care about others but his party” what would you say to them?
Tetalman said to me he's a fiscal conservative. He's been a businessman and even a successful real estate investor/broker. He believes you should be conservative with money and live within your means. He also says government should do the same itself. The deficit is a big antithesis to fiscal conservatism and it needs to be addressed. Tetalman believes we need to make cuts and address revenue. Even conservative Republican Senators like Tom Coburn and Saxby Chambliss know this. On the other hand, Tetalman is careful to point out we cannot and must not cut the safety nets to those in need, like Medicare and Social Security. We can cut the waste but not the benefits.
• Rep. Jerry Mcnerney, based out of the Stockton/Pleasanton area, is a Congressman who typically visits his own district just about every weekend. Would you do the same or do you plan on having regular contact with constituents (like in town halls and such)?
Tetalman concurs with this and says one of the complaints people have with Darrell Issa is that its difficult to him, that he's always at fundraisers and he's not being accessible to his own constituents. Congressmen have to be open. You need to be accessible. "I have to represent the district and the whole political philosophy." Tetalman is open to all ideas and therefore, wants to keep the communication line open.
• Although you do strongly support President Obama, would you be unafraid to challenge him if necessary? By this, I don’t mean putting him under the bus. I just mean, if you disagree with the president, would you not hesitate to say so?
Tetalman says that while he does agree with and support President Obama and supports a great deal of his accomplishments and goals, he is not afraid to point out that a major disagreement he has with the president is his policy on nuclear power. Tetalman is an anti-nuclear power guy and does not support nuclear one bit. I think from this, it's quite clear we can be able to discuss other more pressing issues that the Obama administration has either botched or avoided addressing. I'm sure Tetalman will listen.
• Do you believe President Obama has done enough? If not, mention things you believe the president needs to work on more or things he needs to change, repeal, etc.?
Tetalman said we need to keep the economy moving. We also need to promote a green agenda, which what Obama seems to be doing although Tetalman doesn't agree with Obama's nuclear power policy.
• Being that you’re progressive, which Democrat in Congress or the Senate is one you think is most progressive?
Tetalman is an admirer of Dennis Kucinich, whom you all know as one of the Democratic Presidential candidates in both the 2004 and 2008 seasons. He was also the most fiercely vocal anti-war candidate, more so than Howard Dean. Both Kucinich and Tetalman are exactly the same on being anti-war and pro-peace. However, before any of you label Tetalman instantly as Kucinich, I'll point out differences: Dennis Kucinich is fiery and during the presidential debates, he said "we need to pull out of Iraq now! Get the U.S. out and the UN in!" A number of Democrats and others were alarmed by this and thought Kucinich was being too alarmist and not careful, a dangerous precedent for a President to have. Jerry Tetalman on the other hand, was just as anti-Iraq War as Kucinich was in 2003 but his demeanor and humility is much different than Kucinich. He's more calm and diplomatic. Tetalman is also more of a businessman and has never been a career politician whereas Kucinich is. Tetalman also has no controversy to date to his record whereas Kucinich does, as a number of you point out when as Mayor of Cleveland many years ago, he fired someone on live TV. Again, I'm not telling Kucinich to get lost. I'm just being objective in pointing out how Tetalman may be a better spokesman for Kucinich's cause than Kucinich himself. Tetalman like Kucinich's concept of the Department of Peace although I happen to think we don't need the Department of Peace. We just need the U.S. State Department to promote peace.
• Do you think third parties are an important voice for the civil discourse and dialog?
Tetalman said to me that third parties bring new ideas. Tetalman himself was a registered Green Party member for a while and even agrees with a number of perspectives that the party promotes. Even while he's now a Democrat and a loyal one at that, he's open to views and other perspectives from third parties, particularly the Green Party. Let me say Tetalman did not hesitate to explain this to me. For any of you who are in the Green Party who are afraid the Democrats are not standing up to the issues you care about, I think you got a future Congressman who will listen to your voices. That's including you, Jill Stein and Ralph Nader.
• Your take on the voting suppression issue?
Tetalman says this whole thing with the voter ID problem is that voter fraud is not an issue. In California for example, Tetalman points out you can register online thanks to Governor Jerry Brown's efforts. You need to be including rather than excluding people in the process.
Also, one of the things Tetalman and I talked about was an idea of a constitutional amendment to change this. Tetalman is for this although he senses it will be a tough sell. He does however believe that government and corporations need to be separate, like churches and states need to be separate.
• Your thoughts on the Citizens United Decision?
"This is a big problem," Tetalman says. Undue interest. We need campaign finance reform. Corporate money needs to stay out of politics. As far as ideas are concerned, Tetalman says a constitutional amendment is a faster way to bring about change whereas any change at all will lie within the U.S. Supreme Court, which will take forever to make a decision. However, like the voter suppression issue, the constitutional amendment to limit corporate influence in politics is a tough sell according to what Tetalman thinks. We just need to fight and fight hard for it. "The public needs to be educated and informed."
• Would you be beholden to corporations or to the individual constituents who elect and reside in the 49th Congressional District?
Tetalman is quick to say he won't be beholden to corporate influence but to his own constituents in the 49th Congressional District.
• How would you solve the debt/deficit problem? Would you recommend Draconian cuts or would you fight to preserve the important social programs and safety neats?
"Privatization doesn't help Medicare or Social Security. Austerity measure in countries in Europe exacerbate the situation. You need to cut waste."
• For veterans, is more care needed? Not enough being done?
Tetalman says its all about jobs for veterans. There's a high suicide rate in for veterans returning from war, particularly with regards to post-dramatic stress.
• Given the Aurora Colorado shooting has happened, what would you say needs to be addressed about this matter? More gun regulation? Or is the issue bigger than just simply guns/gun regulation?
Tetalman believes in the 2nd Amendment but is not pro-gun like the NRA. He points out that the federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004 but that California has the state assault weapons ban. Gun show loopholes need to be closed. Just on a personal note, I would have liked to have talked more about this with Tetalman as I believe the issue is larger than simply gun control but I think his mind is in the right direction.
• Do you think more can be done that the Affordable Health Care Act hasn’t done yet?
Tetalman believes the Affordable Health Care Act is a major step in the right direction: Lifetime caps, limitations on profit to healthcare companies, etc. He believes we need to reduce costs and that the percentage of GDP in this regard is high and that the results are low. A next step we need to take is move into a single-payer healthcare system, the same model that Ralph Nader, the Green Party and even Michael Moore support, as well as a number of countries like Canada and the UK. On the other hand, I believe Tetalman understands that moving to a single-payer healthcare system won't be immediate. It will take time.
Lastly, the next two questions are what you guys will really like. The following picture explains it all:
Yes, this is Jerry Tetalman at a peace conference in Bali showing his "One World Democracy" book to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the most prominent supporters of the anti-apartheid movement. The following questions address this, as well as the process of peace:
• Describe your book "One World Democracy."
The way Tetalman explains his book is that America needs to work with the international community. He recognizes we never talk about Pakistan and India with regards to their nuclear power. What his "One World Democracy" book raises is peace but as a more practical goal rather than an idealistic goal. International law is important in this process. As far as Tetalman's efforts with regards to his book, he's been to a number of peace conferences around the world. Bali, Copenhagen and so on. The international development of the criminal court has been spearheaded. Peace and other applicable efforts are now more of a world-wide movement than they were decades ago.
• How did you meet Desmond Tutu?
Tetalman met Desmond Tutu at a peace conference in Bali. "He's an articulate speaker." There were peace activists all around the world, a lot of influential people. Tutu seemed to like "One World Democracy."
Anyway, after this Jerry Tetalman was pressed for time but I did quickly ask him if he believes Rep. Darrell Issa will debate him at all. Tetalman says not as of yet and he might not even debate at all. Well I say, let's have him Issa debate Tetalman!
Now, with regards to the issue of Darrell Issa not inviting Sandra Fluke to testify at the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee hearing earlier, I have a REAL treat for you guys:
According to Jerry Tetalman's campaign manager, on October 26th, noontime, Tetalman and Sandra Fluke will be on stage together at the Planned Parenthood rally in Balboa Park, San Diego, California! For any of you who live in California's 49th Congressional District, this may be an important event you want to attend.
Lastly, there is a phone bank happening this Saturday, October 20th from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm to spread out the word of Jerry Tetalman. Details are as follows:
October 20, 2012 10:00 am – 12:00 pmNow here's the first real, promotional video the Tetalman campaign has released. This you can share to any of your friends, anyone you know about Jerry:
Event Length: 2 Hours (Repeats Every Week Until November 3, 2012)
Help us reach out to voters to spread the word about Jerry's campaign to bring a sensible, progressive voice to Congress to represent the 49th District. Please bring your cell phone and charger. 760-542-8190
Tetalman for Congress Headquarters
390 Oak Ave. Suite N
Carlsbad CA, 92008
Finally, here are the necessary links we all are looking for:
Jerry Tetalman's Campaign Website:
Tetalman on Facebook:
Tetalman on Twitter:
Tetalman on You Tube:
Anyway, I think I'll end it at that. I want to keep this discussion open and please, if any of you have any questions and want to keep the dialog going, by all means don't hesitate to share your thoughts. And if you have soft ball or hardball questions, don't worry. Jerry Tetalman and his campaign will be reading this diary so they'll be open to questions. Tetalman is an inclusive person and will be open to people asking questions, as well as effectively representing his constituency should he be elected as Congressman.
3:49 PM PT: For any of you who are asking questions, I might not reply immediately as I am going out with a friend to Oakland. I will answer when I get back. Jerry Tetalman and his campaign, however, will be reading this diary.